(CNSNews.com) – Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said illegal aliens who have been in the United States "for years" will not be deported unless they are identified as criminals.
“From my homeland security perspective we want to encourage people who are in fact not removal priorities and have not been for years,” Johnson said at a Professional Services Council (PSC) annual membership meeting on Thursday in Arlington, Va.
“These are people who are just simply not going to be deported because they’ve been here for years, we don’t have the resources and they’ve become integrated members of society and if they’re not removal priorities, i.e., they’re not criminals, I want to know who they are,” Johnson said.
“I want them to come out of the shadows," he said. "And so, we’re offering people, consistent with our legal authority, the opportunity to come out of the shadows, submit to a background check and be held accountable."
Johnson also said he believes President Barack Obama’s has “legal authority” to put in place the amnesty plan he announced on Nov. 20 that will protect as many as five million illegal aliens from deportation.
“Those executive actions are comprehensive in nature,” Johnson said. “The immigrant accountability aspect of it – the deferred action for adults -- has received a lot of attention.
“In my judgment and in the judgment of our office of legal counsel, we have the legal authority to fix our broken immigration system in a variety of ways, including deferred action,” Johnson said, in reference to extending deferred action for people who were brought to the United States illegally as children, to the parents of U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents who have been here for five years, and to spouses and sons and daughters of lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens.